Jonathan Dwyer: Fantasy Outlook for Steelers RB Replacing Rashard Mendenhall

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Jonathan Dwyer #27 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the game on November 12, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers backfield has been a wasteland for much of the season. Fantasy football owners should understand that's unlikely to change moving forward, even though Jonathan Dwyer has been moved atop the depth chart.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports head coach Mike Tomlin has moved Dwyer into the top spot. Rashard Mendenhall falls to No. 3 behind Isaac Redman. Chris Rainey also remains in the mix after getting five carries last week.

While Tomlin's depth charts always do not reflect reality—Ben Roethlisberger is listed as the starting quarterback this week, as he was listed last week even though he was out—this is a significant change for him because Mendenhall has been listed as the starter all season.

Any time there are four running backs battling for carries—all of whom lost a fumble in last week's disappointing loss to the Cleveland Browns—it's hard to get excited about any of them. A change on the depth chart doesn't change that.

As it stands now, Dwyer is available in around 64 percent of ESPN leagues and 63 percent of Yahoo! leagues. It's impossible to fault anybody for picking him up as a depth player if he's available. In fact, it's actually a smart move.

It ensures he will be on your roster just in case he does become a useful fantasy player down the stretch. Just as importantly, it keeps another owner in the league from picking him up and hurting you when the playoffs roll around.

That said, he shouldn't be in fantasy starting lineups, unless a team is desperate to fill a running back spot due to injury. Beyond that type of extreme circumstance, Dwyer should remain on the bench until his new role becomes clear.

Dwyer has never received more than 19 carries in a game, so it's hard to imagine he's suddenly going to become a 25-to-30 touch workhorse just because Tomlin decided to make him the starter on the depth chart. We'll have to see that to believe it.

A more likely scenario sees him getting a bulk of the carries, but still getting taken out on a pretty regular basis as the team's other backs get some work.

The Steelers are probably going to ride the hot hand. Sadly, at 19 yards on nine carries, Dwyer gets that distinction for last week. Until the team proves otherwise—and that's far from a guarantee—all Steelers backs carry plenty of risk.

Fantasy owners who are trying to secure a playoff spot or improve their seeding can't afford to take the chance on Dwyer in Week 13. If the Steelers show they are committed to him against the Baltimore Ravens, the outlook will change heading into Week 14.

For now, he's worth adding and stashing on the bench. Nothing more.